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Not a great legacy.

  • nhubi
  • 05/31/2014 12:23 PM
The Damulan Legacy is a classic, overcome the monster to free the land quest. In this instance, the monster is, or at least appears to be, the Damulans, and you and your group of mismatched heroes in training are out to save the day, protect your homeland, and discover the truth.

Straight out the gate we get a visit from the exposition fairy. Now it's required in the introduction to give an idea behind the motivation of your characters, but having two people who live together engage in a conversation and share facts of which they are both already aware isn't the way it should be done. If you want to get across the supposed barbaric nature of your enemy it has to be done naturally.

I'm putting the next bit in spoiler tags, because although you hit it early it does concern the main driving force behind the story.

The opening dialogue takes 11 back and forth exchanges to deliver five (possibly six) pieces of information. Without much time on my part, it can be done in five.

"I just heard, Lemier was laid to waste, everyone says it was the Damulans."
"What? Well you can't expect civilised behaviour from a nation that makes its prisoners fight to the death for entertainment. "
"And they wonder why we abandoned trade talks with them."
"I say if they're going to attack our homeland, we do the same, will you come with me?"
"Wherever you go, darling, so will I."

There, the information about the attacked town is conveyed, outrage and the barbaric nature of the enemy are expressed, a bit of history is provided, justification for the quest is established and a precedent is set for the romantic and selfless nature of the protagonists. Though if you wanted to show the relationship between our first two heroes is more comical than saccharine you could replace the last line with something like "As if you need to ask."

Thankfully as the game progresses the information dump seems to be handled more gracefully. When our two characters are introduced to some new travelling companions they all spend a moment introducing themselves and giving a brief background, the delivery is somewhat wooden, but it's a plausible reason for sharing some of their personal history. There are still the occasional 'I'm reiterating information you already possess to stress its importance' moments but in most cases the gradual exposition is left in the hands of the characters specifically designed for it, the friendly and illuminating NPC's.

There is a bit of a hit and miss humour running through the game, though as always humour is subjective, but one of the main delivery vehicles seems to be the running gag. In the case of Dirk, the male member of our original hero partnership, there are two. One about the fact he supposedly conforms to the gender stereotype of failing to clean up after himself, whilst the other appears to have to do with his aversion for touching pianos. Honestly approach almost any piano and Dirk will give you a reason why he is not touching it, every reason that is apart from the basis for his pianophobia, perhaps he had a mean piano teacher. Though his aversion doesn't extend to organs, though I think that was supposed to be a double entendre.

The magic system is nifty, you don't get spells as you level up, in order to learn elemental or curative magic you have to trade precious gems with a mage professor and they'll teach you what they can. In addition there is also a level requirement so even if you have found the gems you need if you're not at a high enough level you can't learn them. It's an interesting play on an old concept but the implementation needs a little work. Early on before you've hit the entry level requirement battles can be draining on your resources and attention span since the only way to heal is via potions or staying at the inn, and your only option in battle is to hit things. The number of mage professors is extremely limited, read one, so I found myself backtracking quite a bit to visit her, not an ideal solution. In addition the actual learning can be a bit tedious as each character speaks to the Mage alone and has to go through an options dialogue of available spells to find one that they have both the level and gems for. A better system would be a simple list of all available spells for the character with the gem/level requirement displayed. In the end I resorted to writing myself a list.

Gems can be found just about anywhere, so open every crate, jar and cupboard. Look for that sparkle in the trees, grass and sand and always, always check the wells.

Sweet, that's another step towards that 3rd level healing spell.

Weapon magic is also learnt via an object system, in this case a tome of knowledge. There appears to be four levels for sword or claw (dependant on an early dialogue choice) and bow. As in the case of gem magic you need to be at the required level to learn the skill, though since you are carrying the tome around with you, the need to find someone to teach you has been removed.

Early on chests are very rare and usually only contain dungeon specific items (keys, bombs etc) or they are the hiding place of tomes, everything else is hidden in nooks and crannies, bookshelves, barrels and jars, though I'd be careful breaking open the barrels in pubs, the bouncers get very annoyed.

Maps are plain but practical, there are no issues with navigating around obstacles, bushes, rocks etc. There are a few branching paths in forests and dungeons to make the maps interesting without being frustrating. The complexity of the dungeon maps increases the further into the games you go, but the classic 'left-hand-follow' will still get you through them. External appearances mirror the internal to ensure a level of continuity, which is always appreciated; all-in-all the mapping is solid, nothing to write home about but no complaints either. Though it would be interesting if the mushrooms you can pick in the forests re-grew over time, after all if the mushroom-monsters can re-spawn, why not the fungi? I also appreciated the 'skip' option for sections of the map you have already traversed, if you're sure you've combed that forest for every mushroom, gemstone and hidden item then you don't need to go through it again unless you want to grind.

The monsters are visible touch based encounters so that's a plus, and they don't appear to chase you which is another point in the developers favour. There are a few instances where combat is unavoidable, due to dungeon dimensions or gate-keeper roles but never at a point where you are going to be running low on supplies and just trying the make it our alive.

Battles are standard turn-based with very little customisation. There is an enemy HP bar helpfully supplied, but it's a little clunky so whilst it's useful to have an idea of the strength of your enemy, the interface isn't a pleasing aesthetic. The RTP is used almost exclusively for everything with the exception of some of the enemy battlers which appear to be rips from some commercial and well-known games and are unfortunately quite pixellated. Most however are the defaults, albeit a few re-coloured for a bit of variety.

Three of these things belong together.

There are some odd balance choices, full armour doesn't slow you down, but a shield reduces your agility. The better the shield, the more it slows you down. I'm not sure I see the logic in that, but as most of the characters can't use shields anyway it's not vital.

Save is only available in Inns which is a big minus for me, especially in the last dungeon where some of the traps can kill you within seconds. The utter frustration of a not being able to save on the world map and therefore having to trudge back through dungeons and the world to a town in order to not lose progress is a definite enjoyment killer. Also I've always found it a bit of an easy option when developers use strict save restrictions to impose challenges rather than designing a challenging game.

There are puzzles in this game a-plenty. They range from the very simple boulder push type all the way through to a demonic 4x4 'Rubik's Cube' monstrosity that had me saying untoward things at my screen a couple of times. Luckily it's a randomised puzzle so leaving and re-entering both resets and gives you a different starting point, eventually I got dealt one that I could step my way through in around 5 minutes. I'm no slouch when it comes to puzzles, but that one had me walking away to make a cuppa a few times.

I...I just don't want to talk about it.

The music appears to be either RTP or taken from other games , there were a couple of tracks that didn't spark an instant feeling of déjà-vu however that may just be because I don't keep a running record of the RTP tracks in my head, or they were some of the less well used ones. They pretty much just blend into the background either way, with the exception of the final dungeon, which you are literally told as you enter is 'foreboding' and then the music starts and it's jaunty and upbeat and playful.

There aren't any mini-games, but there are a couple of gambling dens. Basically you put down your money and roll the dice, if your number or coloured orb comes up; you win, if not you don't. There is also an obstacle course with spike traps you can try and defeat for a prize, but like the gambling options above it's more a case of luck than skill so I pretty much ignored them as the game progressed.

There is one small bug I found, if you enter the town of Horta from the mountainous side you get stuck, since the villager blocking your way doesn't allow you to move off and then back onto the transfer tile to activate it. I had a save from the town just before entering the mountains so I didn't lose much but if you haven't saved in a while it could be frustrating.

There are a few spelling and grammatical errors along the way, and whilst that is an immersion breaker for me there is nothing that detracts from comprehension, and some cases it can be unintentionally funny.

You meant 'chops' right? Because busting chaps would be a whole other type of game.

There are no side quests (unless you consider the tower of the nubs, but I think that was included for comedy value), but there are no frivolous fetch quests either. All your adventures are there to progress the main plot to its eventual conclusion. It's simplistic and harks back to older more naive times when a simple story was all that was expected. That is not a bad thing, some of the most entertaining and engrossing games I've ever played revolved around "The Quest" and after all there really are only a few basic plots and the Hero's Journey is one of the oldest. Still this game is neither terrible nor brilliant, it's workaday, though given my last save was just under 10 hours it may be too long a day for some.

My internal score gave this a 23/50, mostly due to frustration in regard to save-imposed difficulty but as I'm constrained by 1/2 stars I'll err on the generous, since the game is complete and playable when so many fail to accomplish that.